Our Staff

Mark Walden, Executive Director
Mark joined Giant Steps in the summer of 2014.  He has both the educational and professional expertise to work with children and families who are challenged by a variety of special needs.  He holds a masters in school psychology from Trinity University and a Ph.D in psychology from Pepperdine University.  He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Children’s Health Council at Stanford University. Previously, Mark worked at the Oak Hill School, and San Francisco Community Behavioral Health, Child Youth and Family Services. Most recently he served as the Director of the High Risk Infant Interagency Council at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities. He and his partner of 23 years have an adopted daughter named Sasha who used to be a student at Giant Steps. Adding to their long-standing relationship with the organization they acquired a former Giant Steps ‘therapist’ named Mancha to keep them company. You can reach him via email HERE or call him at the office at extension 11.

Lissa Ferreira, Development and Event Coordinator
Lissa's love of working with children began in high school as a tutor, but flourished in college when she managed a therapeutic recreation program for a home for juvenile delinquent boys.  Her work in the non-profit industry has included positions as Executive Director of Theatre in the Mountains and Shakespeare in the Redwoods, District Director of Muscular Dystrophy Association, Marketing Director of Napa Valley Repertory Theatre, and Development Associate and Special Events Planner of the Napa Valley Symphony.  She has a BA from Chico State University in Recreation Administration, and an MFA in Dramatic Art from UC Davis.  Lissa became familiar with the Petaluma community when she joined as the first Program Director of the Petaluma Boys and Girls Club, Lucchesi Branch in 1992. Lissa joined the staff in 2010, and oversees special event planning, community outreach, fundraising and PR/marketing.  You can reach her via email HERE, or call her at the office at extension 13.  

Julie Larson, Program Director
Julie Larson, a PATH International Certified Registered Instructor, started volunteering at Giant Steps in Fall 2009.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and served as a veterinarian’s assistant for three years. She loves working with children and youth of all ages and has a six year old son named Henry. She enjoys trail riding with her two quarter horses Nikawa and Stanley and loves all animals.  Julie loves the outdoors, especially going to the beach or the mountains with her son and her dog, Daisy. Julie is also serving as the Regional Representative  for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. You can reach her via email HERE or call her a the riding center.

Kelly Kinion Lombardi, Volunteer Coordinator
Kelly always loved horses, and took both English and Western Show Riding lessons in her youth.  She owned a cutting horse in high school, along with steers, pigs, chickens, dogs, and rabbits.  Kelly attended Sonoma State University, and volunteered at the Adult Developmental Center and Interact Club.  She then graduated from the SF Academy of Art with a BA in Fine Art/Illustration.  She spent 30 years in graphics at printers and with assorted newspapers – the Petaluma Argus-Courier, the Novato Advance, and the Press Democrat.  Her career has also included stints working at Yosemite National Park as well as working as a seamstress and an artist.  She began volunteering at Giant Steps in 2009, working on accreditation committee, trained to be an Instructor, and was hired as Volunteer Coordinator March 2011. Kelly can be reached via email HERE, or you can call her at the riding center.

Tucker Ricioli, Office Manager
Tucker has a BA in psychology and joined the team after working for five years as the Course Manager for a leadership development institute.  The position at Giant Steps seems to be a perfect blend of her past in-office skills & experiences, and her love of working with people and horses.  She feels particularly drawn to equine therapy, after having worked at a similar therapeutic vaulting organization in the Los Angeles area throughout high school and college.  Tucker feels privileged to return to such an environment – the determination and joy of the students, the generosity of the volunteers, the dedication of the staff, and the gentle patience of the horses.  “There is just something special about the bond between humans and horses!” Tucker deals with all rider payments, scholarship applications, office volunteers, and accounts payable. If you have any questions for Tucker, reach her via email HERE, or call her at the office at extension 10.